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RE: pricing questions

I have a great deal of respect for Karen Hunter, who is an excellent and
fair spokesperson for Elsevier, and I have no idea what production costs
are for Brain Research, or whether it is, in fact, overpriced based on its
production costs.  I would note, however, that the Journal of Biological
Chemistry (JBC) publishes twice as many pages as Brain Research,
approximately 36,000/year, and yet costs only about $1,600/year, or 10% as
much as Brain Research's $15,000.  Its pages cost, therefore, about $.05
each, compared to Brain Research's $1.00/page.  How is it possible for
production and mailing costs of these two journals to differ by a factor
of 20 times?  I would like to see a better explanation of why there should
be such a price discrepancy between them, confirmed by an independent
auditor, before I could agree that the subscription price for Brain
Research is fully justified.

JBC also has a significantly higher impact factor than Brain Research and
a circulation of about 6,000, a figure publicly posted on Ulrich's and in
its journal.

As to its use, I find it hard to believe (though I have no firm data) that
each issue of Brain Research is read by 40 researchers at Northwestern, in
spite of the fact that we have a major Neurosciences department here.  It
was this department, after all, that seriously proposed that we consider
dropping our subscription to this journal, which they considered
overpriced for the use they make of it, a suggestion I have so far
resisted.  If Elsevier can truly demonstrate that there are "... an
average of 40 scientists/students using each subscribed copy", then surely
these 40,000 to 60,000 or more readers should serve as a major enticement
for advertiser dollars.

Of course Brain Research is a favorite whipping boy, as Karen correctly
calls it.  The fact that it is the most expensive life sciences journal in
most library collections guarantees that it will catch the attention of
every bibliographer and university cost accountant.  The fact that its
circulation figures and production costs are confidential merely makes it
that much more obvious as a target and leads to speculation in a vacuum.  
I sincerely appreciate the information that its circulation figures are
closer to 1,500 than 10,000, if that is what Karen meant to say. There is
a feeling among many librarians, myself included, that Elsevier takes a
high-handed approach in its dealing with us, and that leads to an
unfortunate undercurrent of resentment and distrust.  Perhaps some of the
changes that seem to be occurring in the PEAK program, and the better data
that could become available about actual use of the electronic versions of
Brain Research and other journals, will help to allay some of these
antagonisms and lead to a more positive and mutually beneficial
relationship between libraries and commercial publishers in general.

Lloyd A. Davidson
Life Sciences Librarian and Head, Access Services
Seeley G. Mudd Library for Science and Engineering
2233 N. Campus Drive
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL  60208

Ldavids@nwu.edu  (847)491-2906 (Voice)   1-847-556-0436 (fax)


At 01:20 09/21/1999 -0400, you wrote:
>At Elsevier Science we have almost become used to the fact that Brain
>Research is the frequent "whipping boy" for those who like to make
>comments about journal pricing.  However, recent misinformation and
>speculation on this list calls for a response.
>- While circulation figures are confidential, the notion that there could
>be 10,000 subscribers can only be described "in your dreams".  In general,
>stm journals (such as Brain Research) that have no society base have
>between 1000 and 1500 subscribers.  The more expensive the journal, the
>more likely it has been subject to cancellations (although Brain Research
>also continues to add some new subscribers).
>- We have no policy against advertising.  Indeed, we actively solicit
>advertising.  However, no advertiser wants to pay for an ad in a journal
>that goes only to libraries (as Brain Research and most of our journals
>do). The journal must have a large individual subscriber base (normally in
>the tens of thousands) to attract advertisers.
>- Brain Research publishes about 18,000 pages per year, so the price is
>less than $1/page.  It also rejects more than half of the manuscripts
>submitted to it.
>- Our studies of the paper version show an average of 40
>scientists/students using each subscribed copy.
>- The usage figures online (ScienceDirect) are outstandingly high.
>- Elsevier Science made a major announcement this spring on pricing.
>Starting with the subscription year 2000, we will take far more of the
>price risks associated with currency fluctuations, cost increases, page
>growth and the effects of cancellations.  We commit that libraries will
>have less than a 10% annual increase, regardless of these inflationary
>factors.  (In 2000 the increase is 7.5%; without the new policy, it would
>have been about twice that in the U.S., for example.)  No other publisher
>has made a commitment to giving libraries this level of price stability.
>- Finally, Brain Research authors benefit in a large number of ways: 50
>free reprints; assurance that their articles will be available
>electronically for the first nine monrths after publication at no charge
>to paper subscribers (and permanently to electronic subscribers); the
>lowest color rates in neuroscience journals; personal free access to
>related electronic services; no page charges; and the benefits of
>SMARTWorks, the first life science electronic submission and peer review
>software (developed through our investments).
>I could go on, but the point I want to make is that Brain Research is
>respected by editors, authors and readers. This is not by accident.
>Publishing is not something that just "happens".  Those who criticize the
>journal should also consider the hundreds of scientists and the publishing
>team who believe in the journal and work to make it succeed.
>Karen Hunter
>Senior Vice President
>Elsevier Science